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93 Facing Life's Record

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

Join us as we take a closer look at this chapter in the book Great Controversy written by Ellen White on the topic of the Investigative Judgement. This chapter and the teaching of this judgement has troubled many people and traumatized some with a picture of God that does not seem to fit with the picture Jesus portrays as he said, "if you have seen me, you have seen the father." We hope that this closer look will remove your fear of the end time and enable you to face it with hope, having the confidence that your Father has done everything He can to be sure you are with Him in heaven. Better yet He wants you to know that now and not have to wait in suspense to see if you made it. In the Investigative Judgement He refutes the accusations of the enemy and clothes you with His Righteousness.

93 Facing Life's Record
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An analysis of the chapter “Facing Life’s Record” in The Great Controversy.

This podcast is dealing with a teaching of the Adventist Church and it may not interest you if you are not an Adventist. The defining evidence for this teaching comes from one chapter in the book, Great Controversy by EGW.

Process: One sentence or part of sentence has been selected to summarize each paragraph. The focus of each paragraph is noted.

Results: Of the 36 paragraphs, 6 are focussed on the Salvation mediation of Jesus Christ, three focus on the backstory and 27 paragraphs focus on performance or behaviour. Traumatic experience for many.

Clifford Goldstein: “My wife (was taught as a Seventh-day Adventist) . . . ‘that the judgment is going on in heaven right now, and that our names may come up at any time. We can’t know when this happens, but when it does, our names are blotted out of the book of life if we are not absolutely perfect. We are lost. We won’t know it, and we may keep on struggling to be perfect, even though probation has closed for us and we have no hope.’” (p20 Marvin Moore book on IJ)

Sascha’s challenge.

Warren’s challenge.

Comment: While The Great Controversy was edited later, this chapter was written before the 1888 General Conference and the significant emergence of the Gospel in EGW’s understanding and the gospel awakening in the Adventist community.

Here is the summary:

{GC 479.1} "the judgment was set, and the books were opened." Daniel 7:9, 10, R.V. (INFORMATION)

{GC 479.2} “Judge(d) . . . ‘according to his works.’" (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 479.3} Jesus, our High Priest comes "to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 480.1} (In the) “investigative judgment the only cases considered are those of the professed people of God. (INFORMATION)

{GC 480.2} “The books of record in heaven, in which the names and the deeds of men are registered, are to determine the decisions of the judgment.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 480.3} God’s people shall be delivered, "everyone that shall be found written in the book." Daniel 12:1; (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 481.1} "In the book of God's remembrance every deed of righteousness is immortalized. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 481.2} “There is a record also of the sins of men. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

*{GC 482.1} “Opposite each name in the books of heaven is entered with terrible exactness every wrong word, every selfish act, every unfulfilled duty, and every secret sin, with every artful dissembling. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

*{GC 482.2}The law of God is the standard by which the characters and the lives of men will be tested in the judgment. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

*{GC 482.3 Those who in the judgment are "accounted worthy" will have a part in the resurrection of the just. Jesus said. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

*{GC 482.4} “Jesus will appear as their advocate, to plead in their behalf before God.” (FOCUS ON JESUS) Jesus is pleading with us to believe the gospel. He is not pleading with God to accept us.

{GC 483.1} “Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 483.2} “All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven.” (FOCUS ON JESUS)

{GC 483.3} “He (Christ) asks for His people not only pardon and justification, full and complete, but a share in His glory and a seat upon His throne. (FOCUS ON JESUS) This is in opposition to Satan’s accusations.

{GC 484.1} “Satan accuses them before God as transgressors.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE) This paragraph indicates that the reason for this judgment is Satan’s accusations as paralleled in Zechariah 3. Refer also to GC 488.1.

{GC 484.2} Jesus does not excuse their sins, but shows their penitence and faith, and, claiming for them forgiveness, (FOCUS ON JESUS)

{GC 485.1} “Thus will be realized the complete fulfillment of the new-covenant promise: "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (FOCUS ON JESUS)

{GC 485.2} “When the investigative judgment closes, Christ will come, and His reward will be with Him to give to every man as his work shall be.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 485.3} “In the typical service the high priest, having made the atonement for Israel, came forth and blessed the congregation. So, Christ, at the close of His work as mediator, will appear, "without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28), to bless His waiting people with eternal life.” (FOCUS ON JESUS)

{GC 486.1} “All who have ever taken upon themselves the name of Christ must pass its searching scrutiny." (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 486.2} “Sins that have not been repented of and forsaken will not be pardoned and blotted out of the books of record, but will stand to witness against the sinner in the day of God.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 486.3} “Our acts, our words, even our most secret motives, all have their weight in deciding our destiny for weal or woe. Though they may be forgotten by us, they will bear their testimony to justify or condemn.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 487.1} “the character is faithfully delineated in the books above.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 487.2} “In the judgment the use made of every talent will be scrutinized.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 487.3} “The hidden selfishness of men stands revealed in the books of heaven.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 488.1} “The arch deceiver hates the great truths that bring to view an atoning sacrifice and an all-powerful mediator.” (INFORMATION)

{GC 488.2} “Those who would share the benefits of the Saviour's mediation should permit nothing to interfere with their duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 488.3} “It is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects and be able to give an answer to everyone that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 489.1} “Jesus has opened the way to the Father's throne, and through His mediation the sincere desire of all who come to Him in faith may be presented before God." (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 489.2} "Therefore he (Satan) is constantly seeking to deceive the followers of Christ with his fatal sophistry that it is impossible for them to overcome . . . Let none, then, regard their defects as incurable. God will give faith and grace to overcome them. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 489.3} “Everyone must be tested and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 490.1} “Soon--none know how soon--it will pass to the cases of the living. In the awful presence of God our lives are to come up in review. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 490.2} “And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be." Revelation 22:11, 12. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 491.1} “Silently, unnoticed as the midnight thief, will come the decisive hour which marks the fixing of every man's destiny, the final withdrawal of mercy's offer to guilty men.” (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)

{GC 491.2} "Watch ye therefore: . . . lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping." Mark 13:35, 36. (FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE)


Ellen White vacillates between salvation by virtue or works and salvation by Jesus. I think this is the only honest conclusion I can come to after making this summary.

In other places in her writings, she is clear on the gospel.

“If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ's character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.” {SC 62.2}

“What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ.” {FLB 111.2}

Sometimes she grasps the gospel but then sometimes she reverts to “holy nagging” to try and compel people into virtue. It’s a bit like having feasted on Romans and Galatians one reads James and there is an evaporation of the inspiration to live the noble life Grace has called us to.

Ellen Gould had traumatic experiences: She was struck by the stone which hit her head as an adolescent. She was thrown out of her church family for espousing the Advent message. She lost two of four children to death. We are all a product of our history. It is amazing that she produced so much uplifting material, considering her early history and the way she was treated after 1888.

I have no doubt that she wanted Seventh-day Adventists to live on higher ground. Sometimes her writings inspire the reader to nobler thoughts and feelings (Desire of the Ages), at other times the reader is traumatized (Testimonies and this chapter).

There are passages in the New Testament which when read appear to be focussed on behaviour to the exclusion of grace. Surprisingly Romans has a passage like this.

Romans 2:5-11 NLT But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will judge everyone according to what they have done. 7 He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. 8 But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. 9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile.[a] 10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

If one reads the Old Testament the gospel, as presented by Jesus and Paul, is not prominent. There are hints but the main idea of the OT is that one is blessed and saved by obedience to the law (Leviticus 26). Then Jesus came and the light, life and love of God illuminated the world. It was not this way before Jesus came. It is tragic that we do not give Jesus the credit which is due to him. He completely changed the picture of God for those who will listen to him.

Jesus moved our picture of God from a harsh, arbitrary, vindictive tyrant to a loving, caring, compassionate father. This father has no condemnation for us (Luke 15:11-32). He is greater than the condemnation our hearts generate (1 John 3:20). For our disgrace he has “much more” grace (Romans 5:20). He knows us by name. We are precious to him. He longs to have us with him in deepest intimacy. And he will accomplish his will for us if we do not reject or rebel against his purpose. No wonder we experience: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Biblical template for an investigative judgment has to be found in Zechariah 3:1-10 NLT

1 Then the angel showed me Jeshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord. The Accuser, Satan, was there at the angel’s right hand, making accusations against Jeshua. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “I, the Lord, reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, the Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebukes you. This man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from the fire.”

3 Jeshua’s clothing was filthy as he stood there before the angel. 4 So the angel said to the others standing there, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And turning to Jeshua he said, “See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes.”

5 Then I said, “They should also place a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean priestly turban on his head and dressed him in new clothes while the angel of the Lord stood by.

6 Then the angel of the Lord spoke very solemnly to Jeshua and said, 7 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: If you follow my ways and carefully serve me, then you will be given authority over my Temple and its courtyards. I will let you walk among these others standing here.

8 “Listen to me, O Jeshua the high priest, and all you other priests. You are symbols of things to come. Soon I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. 9 Now look at the jewel I have set before Jeshua, a single stone with seven facets. I will engrave an inscription on it, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and I will remove the sins of this land in a single day.

10 “And on that day, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, each of you will invite your neighbor to sit with you peacefully under your own grapevine and fig tree.”

We notice the following.

1. The investigation is initiated by Satan through his accusations against Joshua (1).

2. Satan’s valid accusations (3) are rejected by the LORD (2).

3. Joshua sins are removed, symbolized by changing his filthy clothes for clean clothes (4).

4. Joshua also get a clean turban symbolizing a new way of thinking and feeling (5).

5. Joshua was given authority if loyal to the LORD over the Temple and will have fellowship with the other beings present (7).

6. The Messiah is promised who is the jewel of the LORD and who removes the sins of this land in a single day 8-9).

7. When the Branch or Messiah comes there will be peace and fellowship.

We make the application or interpretation.

1. The investigative judgment is initiated by Satan against those God plans to save.

2. Satan’s valid accusations against the saved are rejected by the LORD. They never chose to be born here and are the result of Satan’s corruption of Eve and Adam.

3. The sins of the saved are removed and they are clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

4. The saved receive the seal of God.

5. The saved sit with Jesus on the throne and have the authority to minister to the universe.

6. The Messiah has removed all their sins. Calvary demonstrates this action. Jesus is their pearl of great price. Jesus is their good shepherd. Jesus does for them what they cannot do for themselves.

7. When the Messiah comes the second time there will be peace and fellowship for the saved.

We may be sure there is an investigative judgment because it is the pattern the devil follows in persecuting God's people. We can be just as sure that God will defend and protect us from the father of lies and violence (John 8:44).

The title of this chapter could have been, “The LORD’s Salvation,” rather than “Facing Life’s Record.”

On pages white, marks of black ink can help one think! (Apologies to Lord Byron.)

Ian Hartley, January 2022

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